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INTERVIEW - Malaysia firm to turn waste into fortune

INTERVIEW - Malaysia firm to turn waste into fortune
KUALA LUMPUR - Firmaplus, a Malaysia-based waste management and processing firm, is seeking to turn waste, including that discharged by the countrys palm oil industry, into a fortune, its chief executive officer said yesterday. Charles Miller said Firmaplus would be the first firm in Asia to use fermentation technology to process organic waste into high protein animal feed and fertiliser. "The potential is phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal," Miller told Reuters in an interview at his office in Petaling Jaya, just outside Malaysias capital of Kuala Lumpur. "The process is not solely designed for palm oil, it will treat any organic waste," he added. Miller said revenue could be more than a $1 billion a year within a few years. Malaysia is the worlds largest producer and exporter of crude palm oil whose output is estimated to reach 10.6 million tonnes in 2000 against 10.5 million tonnes last year. Last week, Canadian-based Thermo Tech (TM) Technologies Inc. , a leading organic waste recycling company, concluded an exclusive master licence agreement with Firmaplus to apply the technology, in which Malaysia will be the starting point. Miller said Firmaplus was committed to an investment of over $500 million to construct and put into operation at least 27 processing plants in countries included in the licensed territory - the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Each plant will have a daily capacity of processing 1,200 tonnes of waste into fertilisers and animal feed, said Miller, adding that Firmaplus is projected to set up seven plants in Malaysia as a start. "I would say within the next 12 months constructions will be on the way," he said. Firmaplus was set up recently by Delta Group of Companies, an investment firm based in Abu Dhabi. Delta Group, which has been around for more than 20 years, has business interests throughout Southeast Asia. Thermo Tech has been developing its waste technology over the past 25 years. The technology is widely used in Canada and the United States to process waste from various sources, such as the food industry and farming. Miller said Firmaplus projected animal feed and fertiliser markets in Asia to produce returns in the range of $45 to $48 million per plant on an annual basis. "Opportunities for processing of food-based wastes to animal feed and biosolids to fertiliser products are projected by Firmaplus to produce revenues of over $1.3 billion (a year) when all 27 plants are operating," he said. Miller said Malaysias palm oil industry would be Firmaplus starting point. The industry disposes of more than 30 million tonnes of organic waste per year, said Miller. It makes up over 10 million tonnes per year of empty fruit bunches and more than 20 million tonnes of palm oil effluent or residue which remains after oil extraction. "There are also millions of tonnes of such waste stockpiled and waiting for disposal," he added. Industry sources said Malaysia land-filled or incinerated millions of tonnes of waste every year. The countrys palm oil millers are required by law to treat their waste as in the past empty fruit bunches were just thrown into rivers and caused pollution, according to the sources. Miller said Firmaplus expected to have the 27 plants come into operation over the next two years and that the products would be marketed worldwide. "Through the royalty programme, (Termo Tech) receives five percent of gross revenue and 10 percent of profits realised," said Miller. "When Firmaplus has brought its 27 plants into production, this agreement is projected by (Firmaplus) to deliver annual revenue to Thermo Tech of $180 million. "The licence agreement is 10 years and renewable," he added. Story by Lewa Pardomuan REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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